Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What's a network worth?

Network The University of Leicester does not yet have a blogging culture, although the number of active bloggers is increasing slowly. There's Alun, who started the whole thing off, Chris and his blogging posse, JayJay, and me, plus a few others that I probably don't know about - if you're out there, leave a comment. (I like to think the fact that we seem to like Wordpress is a sign of good taste.)

We read each others feeds and leave occasional comments, but we work in different disciplines (except Chris and I), so we don't have any other contact. So I've been wondering if there's any value in having some other sort of contact - a UoL blogging network, which might occasionally meet up for a coffee. And if we did, bearing in mind that bloggers might have their own opinions, would the University regard it as a threat? (Mary, Richard - care to comment?)

Would we be able to speak with one voice (sometimes)? Would we storm the list of the world's 50 most powerful blogs? And would we have any impact on institutional culture?


  1. As a lurker and a blog consumer but not an active blogger I might not be the best person to comment here and all I have are questions but… I see no problem with actively growing a UoL blogging community. I have always enjoyed the collective thoughts of the bloggers whose feeds I have (RSS) linked through to – I have just enjoyed browsing Alun’s site.

    What is the best way forward? We have the technology so how do we use it? What is the magic button to press to get more bloggers onboard? I don’t think a UoL blog will be a thereat since initially no-one is going to read it! How do we get such blogs into the wild where others can participate?

    Should we try to get Mary (IT Services Director) to start a “project”/”thought” blog where current plans and developments are communicated and kept up to updated? Should we then start looking at other areas of the University where a blog might be a good channel for communication?

    With so many potential RSS feeds we will need to think about putting a “portal” package together for our users where all such feeds can be sensibly aggregated.

    Where do we go next? And what can we do to help?


  2. Hi Richard.

    Just to clarify, I wasn't suggesting that there should be an "Official UoL Blog", rather that existing bloggers at UoL might want to co-operate in some way, or at least to establish some sort of institutional identity beyond their departmental affiliations. Of course, if Mary (or someone else from the Computer Centre) wanted to put their head above the parapet and establish some sort of official blog, that would be cool, as the young people say (so long as they're prepared to act as a lightning conductor and take the occasional flak that will the thrown at them in that role).

    Way forward? I don't know, it's up for discussion. A simple thing would be to aggregate existing RSS feeds via a Yahoo Pipe, and to publish the output, err, somewhere ... at least that would be evidence that UoL actually exists in the Web2.0 world?

  3. There's also Feedburner Networks which may do the job more simply than Pipes.

    In the longer term we could steal inspiration from the UNC:Chapel Hill hub who via BlogTogether who managed to get together the ScienceBlogging conference. Would there be interest in a UK version around academia? I'm not sure.

  4. I didn't know about Feedburner Networks - looks like a possible solution of some sort of UoL coalition? We'd need a co-ordinator (Richard?)

  5. I have a few points that I wish to add (I am going to articulate this further in a blog entry tonight...):

    From the perspective of a new media scholar - where my discipline is concerned with the social aspects of new techologies, rather than it just being an valuable and exciting networking tool in additional to the current standards of your field - I find the benefits of a UoL blogging network incredibly attractive.

    One.. I'm a MA student (heading in a PhD based on the sociality of social networking software), concerned with the fact I am not long entered the world of academia, lacking the experience and still in the frame work of being am assessed student - not quite there yet in terms of beginning to understand the research trade - however, a UoL network would open the opportunity to operate horizontally, opening the potential for contribute not only across disiplines, but also across levels of expertise - which should offer rich contribution and benefit everyone.

    The way we expand it? We keep talking about it - you can search for university of leicester blogs through tags, blog search, rss etc - but the more we all talk about it through comments and blog entries, the more people are essentially going to come out of the woodwork and join in. I think by defining it (in the way in which SNS such as facebook and myspace organise their university networks) can be quite closed, and really only place people geographically - the dynamic nature of conversation and participation in these envirionments will carry the idea of an UoL blogging networking.

    I've been discussing the idea with my PhD supervisors today and both of them thing there is something good in this.

    I'm loving the fact that I now have a "space" where I can talk about these things with people that are geniunely interested in it. It can be deeply frustrating (for both me and the other) to have all these things to work out about web 2.0/blogging/social networks et al and feel like I'm boring my classmates/friends/family to tears! (Frustrating because, going back to what my discipline ACTUALLY is, I assumed that I should be sitting in a classroom full of web 2.0 loving/hating nutballs...)

    Did somebody mention coffee?

    - Jay Jay

  6. Interesting thoughts - blogging's something that I've been doing (in a personal/professional) context for the past 4 years. As a recent acquisition to Library I've discovered that the idea for an in-house blog for the service here has been kicked about a fair bit but not much has happened.

    Working at Warick Uni for a couple of years where blogging is the norm was pretty handy, but I do know motiviating colleagues to participate in group blogging is always a challenge and a half.

  7. Hi Gareth. Do you have a personal blog at the moment? You might also be interested in: